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Protecting the president’s good name

By Carlo Fonseka

(February 21, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s thoughtful essay in Sri Lanka Guardian (Jan 15) titled "The Fonseka affair: A perfect blunder?" merits the serious attention of all those who are concerned with protecting Sri Lanka’s reputation in the world in general and President Mahinda Rajapakse’s good name in particular. Grace under pressure has been a solid attribute of President Rajapakse’s character. Even in the teeth of the gravest conceivable criticism he has remained unflappable. No other politician in our recent history has literally charmed his political enemies (if not "loved" them in a Christian sense) to a greater degree than President Rajapakse.

In his resounding and triumphant victory, therefore, magnanimity would have been his natural, predictable response. But in Dr. DJ’s telling phrase "the clumsy melodrama" which commenced on the 27th of January and is still being played out in relation to General Sarath Fonseka’s affair, is filching from President Rajapakse his good name, without enriching our country’s reputation.


Readers familiar with Shakespeare’s tragedy "Othello" will remember that Iago, who is hell-bent on ruining Othello’s marriage tells him:

"Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;

‘Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands;

But he that filches from me my good name

Robs me of that which not enriches him,

And makes me poor indeed".


I fear that the Fonseka affair is making President Rajapakse poor indeed. I have reason to believe that what is being enacted in this matter is happening without the explicit consent and perhaps against the will of President Rajapakse, by well-intentioned but misguided "other people". (Jean Paul Sartre created a character who famously declares, "…hell is other people").

For the following reason, I suspect that President Rajapakse may not be fully aware about what is happening about the Fonseka affair. A few days before polling day, when the election campaign was in full swing, a few of us felt strongly that the extremely partisan way in which the state media were plugging for President Rajapakse was unlikely to win him fair-minded floating voters. So we went to see him and told him straightforwardly about it. The President not only agreed with us but, went so far as to say that it was the lack of committed support from the state media in 2005 that helped him to win the presidential election!

Trust yourself!

At this point we told the President that in our judgment he himself was the most effective and persuasive campaigner for him, and that his personal campaigning is all that is necessary and sufficient to ensure his convincing victory. I now feel that I am old enough to tell H.E. the President that in conducting the mandatory investigation which should be conducted into the serious allegations against General Fonseka, he should trust his own mature political judgment and instincts regarding the ethical propriety of due process. After all, when all is said and done, it is his good name and Sri Lanka’s national honour that are at stake.

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